CyberDiary – 13 February 2011

MalaMala - Manyelethi male lions

Manyelethi male lions by Matthew Tatham

We were privy to a whopping three kills this week, including one by a very proud first time huntress. We saw the four new young male lions and the four cheetah brothers again. Marula madness was in full swing in front of the deck at Main Camp, providing some fun lunch time viewing for guests. It just goes to show, you don’t always have to be out on drive to see the good stuff.

If numbers are more important to you than that first cup of coffee, this is how many times we saw each of the following animals over the past week: lion – 14; leopard – 11; elephant – 22; rhino – 22; buffalo – 16; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 2.

Don’t forget that you can always refer to the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.

Enjoy!

Sunday 6th

Our first exciting sighting of the week was of the four male lions that recently arrived in the area. Although there is no positive identification on this young coalition as yet, we have heard reports from the north of four young males in the region, as well as further reports from the south that the young males from the Selati pride have split off from the females and are now independent.

The four youngsters we saw were slightly nervous of the Land Rovers, so it’s unlikely that they are from the Selati pride as those lions are all accustomed to game viewing vehicles. Either way, it’s exciting to have new blood in the area.

Monday 7th

We saw our first kill of the week today, thanks to three members of the Styx pride. In the morning we found one of the older lionesses, the young male and the young lioness asleep close to Mlowathi Dam. They continued sleeping throughout the day and early evening, and it was only at the end of the afternoon drive that they finally began to stir.

After a long, lazy stretch the trio slowly made their way to the dam for a drink. And from the look of their slim belly lines, it was clear that they’d soon be on the hunt. Crossing through the Mlowathi River, they made their way southwards until they came across a herd of impalas. The three lions quickly split up and began flanking the herd.

We knew it wouldn’t be long before we’d be witnessing one of the most spectacular sights the bush has to offer.

The oldest female took the lead and sped after the impala through an open area. The chase was over almost before it had begun, as the lioness brought down an adult female impala. The other two wasted no time in pouncing on the kill, and the unlucky buck hadn’t even been put out of its misery with the customary strangle bite before the lions began ripping into it. The night was soon reverberating with the sound of growling, feeding lions.

Wednesday 9th

The second kill of the week was also the first for the Kikilezi female leopard’s cub. This morning we found the mother and daughter pair resting in the shade close to Piccadilly Triangle. After a while the cub became restless and started moving around to inspect the area. As she moved along the perimeter of a small pan, it soon became apparent that she was stalking something. With a bound and a leap she disappeared into some thick reeds, and reappeared a short while later carrying an Egyptian goose gosling in her mouth.

It was an unfortunate event for the hatching pair of Egyptian geese – as it was the last of their six goslings, but it was a huge step forward for this young leopard who’d just added a new life skill to her expanding repertoire. The cub then strutted around with the limp carcass until she was certain that she’d shown off her prize sufficiently, before setting it down in some long grass and tucking in.

MalaMala - Four Kruger National Park lionesses cubs

Cubs of the four Kruger National Park lionesses by Matthew Tatham

It was a relatively quiet week for the Manyelethi male lion coalition. In the morning we found the male with missing canine close to Campbell Koppies. He was following the tracks of the Kruger National Park lionesses and their four cubs, who’d been in the area the previous day. But the mercury soon started rising, so he sought out some shade and went to sleep. By nightfall he still hadn’t stirred, and it was only once the stars were out in full force that he finally roused himself from his slumber. After a good stretch and yawn, he walked a short distance and then stopped to announce his presence to the world by roaring loudly. When we left him he was walking off into the darkness still roaring, most probably in a bid to locate his absent brothers.

Thursday 10th

MalaMala - Tamboti female leopard

Tamboti female leopard by Matthew Tatham

The Tamboti female leopard made the third kill of the week. Two large kudu bulls staring intently at something in the long grass alerted us to the fact that something was afoot. On following up we were caught by surprise when the Tamboti female suddenly leapt out from the long grass in order to avoid our vehicle. She’d done such a good job of camouflaging herself that it had very nearly been to her detriment.

The Tamboti female is a very relaxed leopard though, so the incident didn’t ruffle her feathers in the slightest. She just nonchalantly got up and wandered off, and a little while later found a nice shady spot to doze off in.

Later in the early evening we found the Tamboti female’s tracks crossing over West Street Bridge. They led us directly to her location, a few hundred meters further down the road. After resting for a short while she started walking northwards, scent marking as she went. She then changed direction and headed off the road in an easterly direction. After crossing down into the Matshipiri River, the leopard then settled down on a rock to relax for a bit.

Suddenly something caught her attention, and she was immediately up and stalking. With a blaze of speed and some careful maneuvering, she had a loudly protesting scrub hare in her mouth. The noise didn’t last for long, but it was some time before the animal’s nerves stopped and it went limp.

The Tamboti female wasted no time in moving away to somewhere quieter. After the noise that the scrub hare had made, she knew the area would soon be teeming with scavengers in search of a free meal.

After momentarily disappearing into some thick bush, we spotted the leopard high up in a Jackalberry tree. She plucked away at the fur of the hare and then proceeded to eat it head first, which was unusual as leopards usually eat their prey from the rump end first. Whichever way she ate it was of no consequence however, as the Tamboti female was just intent on savouring her catch. When we finally left her she still had one leg to go.

We had two sightings of the male cheetah coalition this week. While not as plentiful as previous weeks, it was still very exciting to see these often hard to find cats. On Monday we found all four of the males together, and when we saw them again on Thursday there just three, with the fourth one nowhere to be found. On both occasions we saw them at Clarendon Dam, where they were going nowhere slowly. They spent most of the day lazing about in the shade of trees, only getting active once dusk arrived.

Although the best sightings invariably take place out in the bush and far away from camp, we do sometimes see exciting things closer to home as well.

Over the past few weeks the Marula trees have come into fruit. And with the deck in Main Camp being lined with them, we’ve enjoyed front row seats from which to watch the elephants gorge themselves on their favourite fruit. One male in particular, has taken to arriving promptly at lunch time each day. So everyone is treated to some classic game viewing while eating their lunch.

And that folks, brings to a close another fantastic week at MalaMala. You can view the rest of the week’s photos on Facebook or Flikr . Click here to download the PDF version of this week’s CyberDiary.

Until next time,

The MalaMala Ranger Team.

PLEASE NOTE: Animals on MalaMala are named after their territories. This means that a) only the predators have been given names and b) we only know the animals according to the names we have given them, as they are based on the territories within MalaMala’s boundaries.

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